Retail technology view from the top: Verifone's Kevin Freeguard

As new systems and digital capability continue to evolve the way retailers run their businesses, Essential Retail is gauging the views of the sector's main figureheads, via a series of exclusive interviews. This week, it's the turn of Verifone UK & Ireland managing director, Kevin Freeguard.

Value-added services at the point of sale and a reduction in complexity around payments are two trends Verifone UK & Ireland's managing director Kevin Freeguard expects to see more of in the retail industry, as 2016 runs its course.

According to the payments executive, British businesses operating in the retail space are particularly prolific in driving innovation and change, which he believes makes it a suitable region for technology companies to bring new products to market.

"Our retailers are generally very active about how they can develop their proposition for consumers and extend their offering," he explained to Essential Retail.

"Over the last two or three years we've seen that trend accelerate and I would expect there to become even more of a need for this behaviour in the marketplace. The UK is a good market to drive some of these new products and services, which is very encouraging for us."

Evolution in retail is partly being driven by advancements in technology as well as by consumer behaviour, Freeguard added, with "consumer desire for the ubiquitous experience and value for money" during their shopping trips now encouraging retailers to think about how they can best meet these requirements.

Geoff Barraclough from the retail technology and payments consultancy Barraclough & Co recently took to Twitter to register his approval of Verifone's terminals. "This is how all payment terminals should be, making the options clear and welcoming Apple Pay," he commented, before posting a photograph of said terminal displaying Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Apple Pay logos.

His view is indicative of a growing shopper demographic in the UK that would now like to be presented with choice and clarity at the point of sale, in terms of how they can complete a transaction. What may have once simply been considered as functional hardware in a store used for completing the payment process, is starting to position itself as a more central cog in the wider consumer experience.

For Freeguard, value-added services at the point of sale are also going to become an essential component of retailers' partnerships with payments vendors.

"Consumer expectations include how to integrate payments with loyalty cards so they can use mobile phone wallets," he noted.

"It's something a lot of retailers are focused on right now, in addition to how they can develop those services and integrate the infrastructure to deliver that service."

He added: "I also see a focus on the reduction of complexity.

"Payments are becoming complex and there is a lot more for businesses to consider around compliance. That environment for the retailer is becoming more challenging and we do see quite a trend towards outsourcing payment services."

Use of digital wallets in the shopping process is still at a nascent stage, but Freeguard believes the payments terminal can become a platform for boosting adoption of this new way to pay.

"Consumers are now increasingly familiar with using mobile devices and applications, so I think the adoption of digital wallets will speed up over time," he remarked.

"I also think there is a need to make the process as simple as possible for the consumer to use, and for them to be able to use it in a bricks and mortar environment. This – alongside additional services – will drive adoption."

Full-featured and connected payment devices, such as Verifone's, are enabling retailers to think about additional services at the point of sale such as loyalty and advertising, Freeguard added.

He was speaking ahead of his company's appearance as an exhibitor at RBTE, which will take place at London Olympia on 9-10 March.

Verifone has been a long-term supporter of the exhibition, but having only joined the payments company in February 2015 Freeguard was a first-time visitor to the event in 2015. It would appear he was impressed with the experience.

"I had the opportunity to go to RBTE for the first time last year and it was a great opportunity for me to meet many of our partners and customers in the UK," the payments exec commented.

"It's a good window for what the supplier industry is doing as well, highlighting the key trends in retail. The location is very convenient and it is a good show for connection in the UK."

Verifone will be exhibiting at RBTE 2016, which takes place at London Olympia on 9-10 March 2016. Click here to register for your free event ticket.

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